(Aaditya Thackeray is the president of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena)
I am sure you are wondering, as all others are, "Why is Mumbai city dug up at every possible corner?" and that thought is totally justified. Another thought that hits one is, "Where will all this lead?" Metaphorically and literally speaking.
Well, I have taken a shot at seeking these answers, as a Mumbaikar and as someone who might have a little say and sway at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or BMC.
Currently, there are 305 roads taken up for re-laying with concrete or asphalt mastic, or strengthening. Similarly 55 major and minor junctions are being upgraded for the same reason.
All this was committed by the Master Plan drawn up by the BMC in 2013 under the then Mayor Sunil Prabhu - that all roads would be re-laid and improved, just like major junctions.
Junctions, over long periods, turn into major pot-hole zones, causing maximum traffic jams and chaos. A few years ago, the BMC had no option but to cover junctions with protective paver blocks, as the junctions are where almost 40 different utilities cross each other under the road. So to repair a single utility, one has to dig up the road.
Now, with new technology, the 40-odd utilities across the city (like gas, electricity, phones, internet, water, drainage, sewers, storm water drains etc) are being ducted across the city while the BMC moves phase wise to convert from paver blocks to Asphalt Mastic to cover the junctions and the road sides to make our ride smoother. This is a stronger and longer solution.
All these utilities are being digitally mapped and can be repaired at regular intervals.
Coming to the roads, I consider them to be one of the most important aspects of infrastructure, development and life. From luxury cars to public transport, roads are great equalizers -we suffer them alike!
For Mumbai, smoother lanes also means a better pitch for the famous "gully cricket".
Mumbai is a vast city, having almost 1,941 km of roads, right from highways to the sea-link to narrow lanes.
The Western Express Highway, Eastern Express Highway, Eastern Freeway, The Sea-Link, most flyovers, roads under flyovers, and most roads under monorails don't come under the jurisdiction of the BMC.
Some roads under the monorail have been handed over to the BMC this year, and the BMC has put in a request with the State Government to also be given charge of the highways and flyovers, since they are major reflections of the city roads.
To figure out the pace of the work and the quality, since the scale is like never before, I accompanied the Mayor of Mumbai, Snehal Amberkar, on five field trips. It was almost like an assignment, visiting the places, seeking the issues to be addressed (like coordination with 40 agencies to make a single road, get permissions from the traffic police etc.) and set deadlines for the contractors to meet and track the progress.
1) Marine Drive, one of the most important and may be the pride road of Mumbai. This road has been taken up, to be re-laid in certain stretches, and strengthened in parts after almost 75 years.
The 10-month-long project was to begin in December 2013, but could only begin post the January 26th parade of 2014. However, after picking up pace, the stretch of concretization has been completed. The rest of the road will be that of asphalt mastic. Almost 80% of the entire divider length has been replaced and as per the deadline, one major stretch of Marine Drive will be ready before the monsoons of 2015.
2) Breach Candy (Bhulabhai Desai Marg): This road probably has been one of the longest and toughest jobs till date. Extreme heavy-density traffic at most hours of the day, and extreme high-density of utility lines running beneath the road. Obtaining permissions from the traffic department has been tough, understanding their concerns too. However, the BMC has managed to achieve pace, whilst dealing with hurdles. A major achievement has been replacing old and small pipes of major utilities like water, drainage and sewer at a rapid pace. This road is expected to be complete by June, latest, for a smooth ride.
3) JVPD Junction: A major junction in the western suburbs, and always pothole prone, furthermore, extremely dense in terms of traffic movement, has been smoothened by the BMC with asphalt mastic.
4) Pedder Road (Gopalrao Deshmukh Marg): Another high traffic density road, not too wide either. This road is a two- phase work, first to replace the pipelines of drainage with those thrice its size. This was an emergency, as the old ones were about to crash. The work 'of the first phase' will be complete by mid- March.
5) Chembur- A visit to Chembur has given us an insight into the complex issues the road work faces in the zone due to the movement of heavy load traffic, mono rail network and utilities, while the inner lanes are quickly being converted to concrete. At such times, one has to heavily rely on smooth coordination of various agencies; the BMC is trying to pick up pace.
These visits have helped me understand the city better, contribute to our city, our Mumbai that we love. Things that might not be realized later, I have a deep sense of satisfaction about, simple things like saving almost 60 trees with slight yet immediate changes in road widening in Worli.
With each passing day, and my secret night visits to report to the Mayor, I realize the deadlines being met, areas being cleared of the work and seeing smooth roads.
As every other Mumbaikar, while I do agree that the unprecedented scale of road and utility works has caused inconvenience to everyone, as a Mumbaikar touring the city at night to see the work and knowing a little bit of it, I can assure everyone that the unprecedented scale will yield tangible results, latest by June, for all the road works taken up.
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